cover image The Librarian Who Measured the Earth

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth

Kevin Hawkes, Kathryn Lasky. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-316-51526-9

Newbery Honor author Lasky (Sugaring Time) deserves high marks for her attempt to present formal mathematical concepts in a picture-book format. The result, however, is a somewhat uneven amalgam of fable, history and science that struggles to find an appropriate age group. She tells the story of Eratosthenes, the ancient Greek librarian who figured out how to calculate the circumference of the earth by a sophisticated process involving sun and shadows. In an author's note, Lasky explains that since there is little extant documentation pertaining to Eratosthenes himself, her job as historian became to ``responsibly imagine based on what we already know.'' Unfortunately, the simplistic language and imagery she uses to describe his life contrast awkwardly with the somewhat daunting details of his mathematical innovations. Older readers who can understand abstract calculations might well be put off by such lines as ``More than two thousand years ago a very smart baby was born.'' Hawkes (see The Nose, reviewed above) handsomely illustrates both the mathematical and historical concepts with his signature touch of whimsy. His stunning acrylics add significant interest to the volume. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)